Jordan Connor: An Exclusive Look At The Actor Behind Riverdale’s Sweet Pea
Introducing Jordan Connor
Standing at over 6’ tall with his carefully styled, yet tousled dark locks and intense stare, Jordan Connor fits perfectly into the shoes of Riverdale’s no-nonsense gang member, Sweet Pea. This is one guy you wouldn’t want to start a fight with, but off the set of Riverdale Jordan carries a very different demeanor. He is more of a gentle giant, with a quiet spirit and humble personality.
As an actor, writer, former architectural student and athlete, there are many facets to who Jordan is. One thing that he says many people don’t know about him is his love of outer space. “I actually took a lot of astronomy and physics courses when I was in university studying architecture. When I was little I had this book about space that told you everything about our solar system and the galaxies that we know and I was obsessed with it. If there’s ever a new documentary about space on Netflix, you can bet I’ve watched it at least six times.”
He claims that if he wasn’t an actor he would probably be an astronaut, but it’s clear to see that his love of acting has persisted throughout his life as it transpired into a career that took off in 2013. Jordan worked his way through auditions and onto a number of film and television sets that eventually lead to his current role on Riverdale.
In our interview, we really get to know Jordan. He shares exclusive information on playing Sweet Pea, his personal struggles with his mental health, invaluable advice for aspiring actors and so much more.
Getting his head in the game
Born in Calgary, Alberta and raised in Delta, British Columbia, Jordan was a bit of a small town kid. With no clear direction in site for his future career through high school, he found himself immersed in the diverse worlds of football and theatre. Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, Jordan swears it was quite unlike High School Musical. We won’t be getting any stories of song and dance out on the football field, but there was some inner turmoil on which avenue would eventually take over the other and become a lifelong career.
“Football and theatre are both big, time consuming activities, so I did feel like I was half in on both of them. By graduation time I had received a football scholarship to the University of British Columbia. I decided to take that route because I got free schooling, next level athletics, and at the time I thought that I could play professionally. So, I gave up acting throughout the school year.”
Despite his commitment to football, his love of acting was never far. It always stuck with him in the back of his mind, occassionally peaking his interest and begging to be pursued. “During the summer when we were supposed to be practicing, I would be looking for acting classes. I really wanted to join the theatre program at the University, but I knew the time commitment for football was too much, so I couldn’t do it. My coach picked up on the fact that I was half in, half out, and one day he said to me, “You know what, you’re on the fence right now and you could be great at one or the other, but you can’t be great at both because they take up so much of your time. Eventually, you’ll have to choose.” I didn’t really listen to him,” Jordan tells me, laughing. “I kept on doing both and at the end of my second year I ended up being tackled during a game and broke my leg pretty badly. That injury forced the end of my football career.”
His struggle with mental health
Being as prevalent as it is in today’s society, we know that many of us, at some time or another, have struggled with our mental health. Jordan has faced his own darkness just like the rest of us and was open enough to share what this was like for him, how it affects him today and what he did to overcome it.
“I tend to be a master procrastinator, it’s one of the biggest obstacles in myself that I have faced and still face today. I find myself having to be very proactive in overcoming this feeling of laziness, which I believe stems from the time I had my football injury. After I broke my leg I fell into a season of depression. I was bedridden for three months because I couldn’t walk and I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with my life, so I would just lay in bed and sulk. I would experience this overwhelming sinking feeling which I didn’t think I could get out of. It was like I was sinking into a hole and I couldn’t climb out of it. It was a really scary feeling to have. Eventually I took the time to really evaluate the things that I wanted in life and decided to pursue them without holding back at all.
Living in alignment with yourself and pursuing the things that bring you joy, through the hard work and when reaping the rewards alike, can bring you a new sense of purpose. Actors tend to have an all in, one-hundred-and-ten percent kind of attitude when it comes to their work. Jordan explains that there are so many risks, so much left to chance and too many obstacles to make it if you’re not all in. Adopting this attitude created a major shift in Jordan’s perspective on life. “I think diving into something that I loved really helped me to draw out of that depression and those feelings of sadness because it brought me up and made me happy. I wake up every day and I make an effort to think about what I’m going to do that day that I love. I want to live my days with intention, whether that means getting out there and working or simply taking a day to watch space movies.”
Getting back into acting and switching agents
Though it was football that initially kept him from fully pursuing his dreams of being an actor, it was also football that opened the door for him to jump back into the industry. “The show Hellcats was looking for stunt guys through my football team for a scene and they told us, “If anyone wants to participate in this, let us know.” So, I did and they picked me! When I got on that set I thought, Right, I love acting and I miss it so much. I wanted to be on set all the time after that, so I continued on with stunts for a little while and did some background work alongside that.”
Eventually, Jordan made the decision to leave university to pursue acting one-hundred-and-ten percent. The first step to pursuing bigger roles began with proper coaching. “I did training for about five years after university at Railtown Actor Studio in Vancouver, which does all theatre based training. Since I found my love of acting in the theatre, I think that’s where it will always live. It’s so important to me that I even still do it now.”
Beginning his acting career didn’t come without hiccups. While Jordan was working and booking small parts, he still felt as though his career could improve. “I did some little parts on TV shows here and there over the years while I was training, and I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I felt like I was failing because I wasn’t working consistently and I had to keep up with a lot of other day jobs to make money. I’d hear that my friends were going out for all of these auditions and I was thinking, Why am I not getting these auditions? What’s going on?”
To get out of his head for a while, he decided to pack his bags and take a trip to Southeast Asia. When he came back home, he realized that some big changes needed to happen if he wanted to get the results he was hoping for in his career. “When I came home from travelling I felt like my agent didn’t want much to do with me. I wasn’t being sent out for anything and we weren’t having meetings, so I knew it was time to switch it up. As soon as I did I was immediately getting audition after audition, booking after booking.”
Switching agencies can be difficult. When you spend a lot of time with one agent it can feel uncomfortable to leave, especially if you spent many good years with them. These feelings really resonated with Jordan. “The agency and I loved each other so much, we really did, but it just wasn’t working out anymore. We stopped seeing things the same way and it was was taking a toll on our relationship and my career. It’s hard, it’s like breaking up with somebody, but at the end of the day it’s business and they understand that. If you’re unhappy with your agent, or looking for a new one, go out and find someone who really clicks with you. It doesn’t matter who their roster is or what the agency is or whether they’re a big deal or not. As long as they’re going to pick up the phone and call casting directors to try to get you in the room, that’s all you need. You need someone on your team who is going to be your number one fan.”
After some time, along came Riverdale. You may be surprised to know that Jordan auditioned for other characters, like Joaquin and Reggie, before reading for Sweet Pea. “I kept auditioning for these roles on Riverdale and not booking them so I was thinking, Oh man, I don’t know, they don’t want me for the show...There’s no way they’ll cast me. Then this role came along for a character named Sweet Pea, and I was thinking, okay, let’s see what happens.”
It seemed kismet that Jordan should play Sweet Pea as he already fit the characters description before being transformed by any wardrobe, hair or makeup team. “In the description of the character they had said Sweet Pea was a “dark Jughead”. As in, if Jughead had of gone down the wrong path, this is who he would have been, which I found so cool. It was also funny because the whole year leading up to this people would tell me that I look like Jughead! Even after booking the part I would get asked, “Oh, is Jughead your brother on Riverdale?!” …and to them I say, “We’ll see! (with a winky face)”
This instilled a lot of confidence in him as he moved forward to audition for the part. He explained to me that the showrunner for Riverdale is the type to know exactly what he wants, so opposed to the typical seven or eight page sides for the audition, there was just under two pages. The stakes were high. That is a very short amount of time to make your mark. But as we all know, this wasn’t a problem for Jordan. “I just did the audition and there were no callbacks, no chemistry reads or anything. I auditioned for it on a Thursday and by the next Tuesday I was working. Like a switch, just like that.”
It seems that Jordan stepped into his characters shoes in a very big way, impressing the whole team, because what was meant to be a small role turned into so much more. “I was only supposed to have four episodes….now it’s turned into twenty,” he tells me, and it’s clear to see the gratitude he feels towards the cast and crew. “They’re really good to me and I’m pretty sure they like me. I know that I like them a lot, so I’m happy they keep me around. The second season was amazing to be a part of and I’m excited to be going onto the third.”
Becoming Sweet Pea
With just days in between auditioning for Sweet Pea and getting on set to truly become him, I wanted to know all about that first day and what it takes for Jordan to get into character. As it turned out, his first day didn’t go as smoothly as he hoped.
“The first day on set was kind of crazy. I had hair down to my shoulders at the time and when I booked the role I had this attitude of, “They’re not going to cut my hair! I’m keeping this hair! This is the character!” Like actor stuff, you know. Then I get to set and they say, “Okay, we’re going to cut your hair.” My attitude was right out the window. I was like “Yep. Please. Okay, great. You do whatever you want. I’m happy to be here,” he tells me, laughing at the memory. “We spent the first three hours on set cutting my hair and figuring out what Sweet Pea was going to look like, doing the makeup tests and everything. But I was also shooting that day, so everything felt very rushed because we had to make it on set in time for the scene.”
As the nerves of this hectic day settled in, Jordan continued to work with the team to figure out the look of his character. Between haircuts, makeup, wardrobe and the application of his temporary tattoos, it was getting closer and closer to his first scene. “I had this big monologue in the scene that was towards Jughead. I was kind of challenging him because he came to the Southside school and I’m the ringleader of the gang there. They were all ready by the time I got there because we took so long to prepare my look, and I was holding my sides and my hands were just shaking. We did the blocking and we did the rehearsal and I screwed up all of the lines. I kept thinking, how am I going to do this?”
It was in this moment that Jordan had to put into work everything he had learned in training over the last five years. It was crucial for him to get out of his own head and into the head of his character. This scene also meant so much for him as an actor. “I realized that I just had to do what I know, what I had spent all of those years training for. I was supposed to go through this door at the start of the scene, so beforehand I was standing on the other side of the door taking some deep breaths and I reassured myself that I know what I’m doing. I got into Sweet Pea’s headspace and told myself that I’m the king of this school, that this is MY school and someone is intruding on my turf and I need to defend myself.”
“This shot really paralleled my life. This one scene would determine whether or not my character would grow or die. So, as Sweet Pea was reassuring his strength, I was also reassuring my strength as an actor. It was a very defining moment for me where I said to myself, “I can do this.” As much as I was stressed out, I had to put that aside to do my job and I think that paid off.”
Keeping up the good work
This experience taught Jordan a big lesson and reassured his constant practice and training. Having this coaching has carried him a long way and has given him the confidence he needs to know that he’s doing his very best on set. Even with his experience, Jordan spills that he isn’t always calm, cool and collected on the job. “There are still days where I’m nervous as hell. I’m a season and a half in and I still get times where I think, Oh crap...and have to take deep breaths to calm myself down and get it together.”
Never wanting his skills as an actor to become dull, Jordan puts an emphasis on always putting in the work before it’s time to be on set. Whether that’s by training or by simply running lines with your castmates, it’s imperative that actors stay sharp on or off set. “I always make sure I’ve done all of my work so that I’m not winging it. I don’t believe that there is ever a day as an actor where you take a day off because it shows. You always need to put that work in, go the extra mile. Talk to your scene partners and block the scenes out, make sure you’ve gone over everything. I think when you start to get lazy is when you lose sight of where you came from and how hard you worked to get where you are. Nerves even seem to help me! If I’m nervous, I know I’ll work hard. If I’m too relaxed I’ll think I’ve got it and then I’ll screw it up.”
Jordan also always tries to keep his creative juices flowing. While theatre is a constant source of training, it also resides as a passion of his, taking up much of his free time. “When I’m not acting, I’m still always working on something. I own a theatre company with some friends and we did four productions last year. We’ve slowed down with it, but we are hoping to do a big one this year.”
Once discovering that investing time in the things he loves brought forth so much joy in his life, Jordan would tell any new actor to do the same. “I worked so many jobs in the past. I worked office jobs, marketing jobs, I was a server, all of that. I think I was filling my time with stuff to do because I wasn’t booking actor rolls, but I was still always working on my craft. I was always working on a play or something similar to keep me on the path of doing what I loved. Even if I wasn’t loving what I had to do for money, I took the time to invest in things I did love.”
This habit of continually bettering himself has created a lifelong impact that he attributes his future successes to. “I think it’s a big lesson that I can keep with me now because even though I’m currently making money from acting and I have more free time, I still need to put effort into my craft and keep working on what I want. My life isn’t over, my career isn’t over, and there is still so much that I want to do. Keeping that hunger and keeping that level of determination going while I’m not working is going to be the thing that helps me get my next job.”
“Always keep working on something. Even if it’s not directly related to acting, realize that it will be. Acting is an all-encompassing art form. I also love travelling and being outdoors in nature. Getting out there and experiencing new things is so helpful for actors. Getting out of my comfort zone and experiencing something out of the box gives me so much more insight to different types of people and the lives they live.”
Jordan knows that there is no end to the things you can learn that will help you grow as an actor. “Play an instrument, learn to sing or take a dance class! I was never musically inclined as a kid, but I’m learning guitar now and sometimes I’ll take singing lessons. A violinist has a violin and an actor has their body. That’s the number one thing you need to take care of and develop because this is your instrument.”
The next thing Jordan said was perhaps my favorite. “Even if you suck, keep doing it. I suck at guitar. I suck so bad, but I’m trying.” You never know unless you try, and being that no one is born perfect at anything, the only way we can get better is with practice.
What inspires him
Bob Dylan once said, “Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it.” Actors everywhere find themselves inspired by others in the business or film and television. It is inspiration that sparks a fire in us, setting forth dreams into motion. As a talented, working actor, I wanted to know where it is that Jordan finds inspiration. “There are definitely certain actors that I’ve always looked up to, like Leonardo DiCaprio or Daniel Day Lewis. You hear stories about these guys who are so successful and incredible at their job, it’s easy to want to be like them.”
While the success of actors that have come before him create a desire to push forward in his career, the most inspirational of people to Jordan don’t walk down red carpets or perform in box-office movies. “The people who I truly look up to are the older actors that I know who have mentored me and who are grinding it out as blue collar actors. They work their asses off every day to book jobs and they’re still doing the things that they were doing when they were young. These people have instilled a drive and work ethic in me like no other.”
It’s the hard work that he has witnessed these mentors put in that has given him the courage to do the same throughout his own career. They have also instilled in him a set of values that help him have an appreciation for his craft, with or without fame and success. “There’s a few actors who I know that haven’t really gotten the success that I think they deserve, because they’re some of the best actors I’ve seen, but they’ve led me to where I am today because of the creativity they’ve helped me to discover and the work ethic they’ve taught me. It’s awesome to reap the rewards of being an actor and to love your job when it’s going well for you, but to love it when you’re broke and not booking? To love it when you can’t afford your rent? That’s when the true love for this business kicks in. These actors have taught me to have a genuine love for my craft and not get caught up in fame and success as the driving force behind it.”
To Jordan, the most inspiring things are the people in your life who can give you tangible advice. Those real lessons that you can truly put to work to better yourself. For himself in his everyday life and for his acting career, having this source has surely been invaluable.
As Riverdale fans will already know, season three is set to premiere on October 10th of this year, 2018. We will definitely be seeing more of Sweet Pea this season, but Jordan shared with me that he has yet another project in the works. “I’ve got this comedy show coming up called Hospital Show that starts shooting in November. It’s totally different than Riverdale! It’s kind of like The Office meets a behind the scenes of Grey’s Anatomy. It stars Sara Canning and Adrian Holmes, and they’re both so funny. It’s such a great show. I feel like it’s a passion project because the writers and director are so hilarious and the cast is so amazing. I’m really looking forward to how much fun it’s going to be to film that.”
Following his own advice in cultivating varied skills, Jordan has lately been investing in writing, and not for the first time. “I’m writing a feature length script right now and in the past I’ve written a bunch of short films. I spent a lot of time holding back on writing because I wanted it to be perfection. Everyone wants their stuff to be perfect and I really wanted the first piece I wrote to be this incredible thing, but I had to realize that it may not be. I’ve got to just let it be what it is. It’s like learning an instrument, you might suck at first, but eventually you get better. I think what’s best for me is to simply create things, learn from them and get better.”
Writing can be much more personal than acting. As an actor you’re bringing your personal experiences into a character that has, more or less, already been mapped out by a team of writers. As a writer, you are the one mapping out the story. This tends to open up a new rawness to laying your ideas on the table. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop Jordan from pursuing this avenue of storytelling. “You want people to like it, but not everyone is going to. Not everyone is going to like my acting either and that’s okay.”
There is so much that we can learn from Jordan Connor. Whether it’s about facing your obstacles, putting in the work for your craft, learning something new, or understanding that inspiration can be closer than you think, his words are some to be remembered. Actor or not, I believe we can all benefit from following in his footsteps by creating things, learning from them and getting better.
You can catch season three of Riverdale on Netflix on October 10, 2018.
To see more updates on Jordan’s life and his projects, follow him on instagram @thejordanconnor
Talent: Jordan Connor x Play Management
Photographer: Noah Asanias
BTS Videographer: Amiel de Guzman
Article by: Emily Loewen
Grooming: Marlayna Pincott using Barber and Co
Styling: Jason Pillay